Manilla Santos: The living legend of volleyball

With the recent three-peat achievement of the DLSU Lady Spikers, it is easy for one to forget about the past and overlook yesterday’s heroes.

Over a decade ago, when Manilla Santos first donned the La Salle colors, the school had earned just one UAAP Women’s Volleyball Championship to its name. The league was dominated by FEU, which had just won three straight championships. What followed though was an unprecedented streak of dominance led by one of the greatest volleyball players the UAAP has ever seen.


Santos first suited up for the squad from Taft Avenue in 2002 and by her second season, she was named the league’s Best Receiver, the first of three times. By her third season, she was a three-peat champion and she, together with the Lady Spikers, established themselves as one of the greatest teams in league history.

After she played her final game for La Salle in 2009, it was a consensus that Santos was a once-in-a-generation talent who transcended all obstacles in her pursuit of excellence. Her #14 jersey was retired at the end of her final season and she remains the only woman to ever have her number raised to the rafters of the Enrique Razon Sports Complex.


An accidental beginning

Santos’ foray into volleyball wasn’t entirely planned. While she was in grade school, she watched her older sister, who was in high school, practice with her team after classes. Santos waited for her sister Mary every day, and she was soon invited by the coach to suit up after he noticed her daily presence.

Though still in grade school, she impressed everyone with her skills and began to participate in tournaments as well against older girls. Training with high school girls was a big boost for Santos as she would be challenged on a daily basis by bigger, stronger and more experienced players—the perfect recipe for rapid skill and talent development.

By the time she was in high school, she began to lead her squad despite the supposed limitations brought by her height. The Hope Christian High School alumna was such a force that she soon started receiving invitations to play for the most prestigious universities in the nation. She eventually chose La Salle because of the high quality education the University offered.


A legacy of greatness

Despite her 5’4 frame, Santos was a force to be reckoned with on the court. She was named the UAAP MVP in 2008 and received the Best Receiver honors three times while winning four championships for La Salle.

She remains the only non-basketball athlete to have her jersey retired, and she remains an inspiration not just to the Lady Spikers but to the entire La Salle community. Since Santos first played for La Salle, the UAAP Women’s Volleyball championship has been brought back to Taft Avenue seven times—an unprecedented streak of dominance sparked by a once in a generation talent.

Though she no longer suits up for longtime DLSU Coach Ramil de Jesus, Santos’ influence still hangs on the team as her jersey stands as a monument to excellence and a winning culture. The winning foundation of La Salle Volleyball, which was established by Santos remains and it still continues to attract young athletes who yearn to join the ranks of the Lady Spikers. No one can ever come close to the legendary #14.


Ronaldo Manzano

By Ronaldo Manzano

18 replies on “Manilla Santos: The living legend of volleyball”

Still in awe when i watch Illa’s game on Youtube. She’s such a high leaper as if she”s got springs on her feet. Illa is the prototype of every La Salle Lady Spiker. She’s two-dimensional, great in offense and defense. She’s such a joy to watch. Love her…

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